Freeriding

Freeriding

Freeriding (also known as Freeride) is a discipline of snowboarding.

The term "Freeriding" was coined when early snowboarders chose to break away from what they considered to be the restrictive confines of traditional ski culture and competition. The original concept of freeriding was that there was no set course, goals or rules to abide by.

Freeriding is often referred to as "the soul of snowboarding". Also referred to as all-mountain snowboarding, freeriding encompasses many of the qualities which have made snowboarding the popular sport it is today.

To master freeriding is to seamlessly merge aspects of other snowboarding disciplines such as freestyle and alpine snowboarding into an all-around style - giving you the freedom to make the most of whatever terrain comes your way. Whereas freestyle snowboarding relies on the use of man-made terrain such as jumps, rails and half-pipes, and alpine snowboarding is done on groomed snow - the focus of freeriding is on utilising the random flow of natural terrain.

Equipment

Freeride snowboards make up a large part of the market as they are the ideal choice for the all-rounder.

A freeride board will usually have a directional shape and flex pattern. A truly directional board will have a nose that is softer than the tail - this helps with turn initiation and with handling cruddy/choppy snow conditions. Overall a freeride board will be stiffer tip to tail and edge to edge for a more precise and stable ride. Boots and bindings are usually stiffer than their freestyle snowboarding counterparts as well.

Some freeride boards are designed more specifically for powder than for groomers and there are all sorts of designs to help facilitate this. Many powder boards are tapered, which means they have a narrower tail than nose. Some have rocker, which means instead of camber these boards have their lowest point between your bindings and they bend up towards the tips. And some powder boards have different shaped tails, some have a swallow tail design which allows the tail to sink easier which in turn keeps the nose up and some have pintails which make the board faster edge to edge in deep snow.

Personalities

Craig Kelly (April 1 1966 - January 20 2003) is known as the 'Godfather of Freeriding'; Terje Haakonsen called Kelly the best snowboarder of all time.

He shocked the snowboard industry by walking away from multi-million dollar deals at the height of the snowboard craze to pursue his passion for freeriding, at the time an unheard of strategy for a pro snowboarder. It was in the mountains where Craig felt the happiest.

The distinctive fluid manner in which he rode was recognized and acclaimed in the snowboarding community. He was called a "style master" by snowboard magazine editor Jon Foster. Kelly also appeared in an enormous number of video and photo shoots. He was known for looking straight at the camera, even in the midst of a difficult aerial maneuver. Craig was a Sims Snowboards team rider for a few years early in his career, but spent most of his life riding for Burton Snowboards owned by Jake Burton Carpenter.

Craig was responsible for the design and development of many snowboards for the Burton Snowboards brand. The company's founder, Jake Burton is quoted as saying, “When I started listening to Craig, that was when my company became successful and really took off.” He added, “… when the rest of the industry listened to Craig, that was when the sport really took off.”

Craig Kelly died on January 20 2003 near Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada in an avalanche which trapped 8 people and killed 6 others.

Filmmaker Jacques Russo created "Let It Ride" a documentary on Craig Kelly's life as a tribute to his friend and subject of many of his films.

Competition

As the original ethos of freeriding was to break away from (amongst other things) the restrictive confines of ski competition, it's somewhat ironic that freeride competitions are surging in popularity on the international stage. However these competitions mirror the sport itself in their random variable formats, and in the fact that usually there is no set course, and very little (if any) rules to abide by.

Freeride competitions basically involve negotiating steep natural terrain fluidly in a similar approach to slopestyle competitors in a terrain park. However unlike the freestyle discipline of slopestyle, there are no perfect man-made takeoffs or landings - each individual rider's route varies, and is personally plotted out in pre-run inspections. Constantly changing weather and snow conditions add an extra element to these events, and the unpredictably random aspect of freeride terrain contributes contributes to a high risk of personal injury.

World Heli Challenge: Deemed the most legendary freeriding and freeskiing event on the planet, New Zealand's World Heli Challenge invites the world's freeriding and freeskiing elite to compete head to head amidst the many peaks which form New Zealand's Mt. Cook National Park. Three days of helicopter-accessed competition occurs over a two-week period, allowing for perfect weather and snow conditions for the Big Mountain, Backcountry Freestyle and Downhill heats to take place. The Big Mountain section consists of charging down of extremely steep terrain including seemingly unrideable cliffs and couloirs, pushing the athletes beyond their known limits. The Backcountry Freestyle realm allows athletes the ultimate in self-expression, showcasing their best aerial maneuvers utilizing the many natural terrain features available on the way down. And the Downhill is just that … an en masse assault down of vertical – no rules, first one down wins!

See also

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